If you’re familiar with my work, then you’re aware of my general dislike for the college hockey polls.
If you aren’t familiar: I don’t like them. At all. If we were to rank my least favorite things in the world, college hockey polls would be somewhere next to ebola and ISIS.
That is not an over-exaggeration (ok maybe a tad). College hockey polls should not be used for anything. Not even general talk amongst friends. “Hey, so and so is this good.” No, not even that. College hockey polls are the single dumbest thing I have ever encountered and I will not rest until everyone I know joins my crusade.
If you’re like me, and you started following college hockey rather recently, the only exposure you have to college rankings would be football. Those are fine and dandy. They have flaws. But being a top-25 team in college football means something. There are 125 (give or take) D-I college football teams. To be considered among the 25 best is something good.
In college hockey, there are 59 schools that play Division I college hockey. That means, when you look at the latest USCHO poll, more than half the teams that play Division I college hockey are receiving votes. The actual rankings itself comprise 34 percent of teams that compete on a week-to-week basis.
That’s not even the most egregious part. Look at the most recent rankings. St. Cloud (3-3-0) at No. 7? Miami (5-3-0) at No. 11? Ferris State (3-4-0) at No. 16? What’s the criteria for these polls?
I get it. It’s harder to rank these teams because they’re playing twice in a weekend, and strength of schedule and blah blah blah. That doesn’t excuse this. Remember last February, when Miami was dead last in the NCHC standings, yet it was still ranked as the No. 13 in the USA Hockey poll (and the first in the “others receiving votes” in the USCHO)? That is a joke. Save for an absolutely ridiculous start (like Michigan Tech) it seems like the same 25 schools are always the ones ranked, regardless of the record.
Every time I see someone get all hyped about, “oh man BG is first in the others receiving votes category!” a piece of me dies on the inside. And no, the irony isn’t lost on me that we publish this information too. It’s something to talk about. People seem excited about it because it seemingly means something. Really, it doesn’t. As you can brush up if you follow that link about, college hockey polls mean nothing in regards to the NCAA Tournament. They’re just something fun to put on media notes, or to post on Facebook and Twitter and talk about “how much this means.”
It would make me happy if people stopped paying credence to these rankings. But they won’t. Hell, give it a week and I’ll probably be back here talking about “blah blah blah ranked team.” I doubt this little rant will sway any opinions. I just needed to get that off my chest.
But if you’re going to get amped about them, know that you’re getting amped about nothing of significance. So if BG sweeps Alaska and ends up in the “Top 20” next week, know what that means. It means you get to brag about your hockey team being ranked, and that’s it. Maybe it helps a bit with recruiting. And Jake would get to put “No. 20 (or whatever) Bowling Green” in his notes for the Ohio State series and every media outlet that covers the team would get to say “nationally-ranked Bowling Green.” That’s it. It means nothing long-term. It doesn’t give BG a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament. It’s all just a facade.
Now that I’ve successfully Debbie Downer’d your day, let’s get into a set of rankings that you should totally take seriously.
1. Michigan Tech (LW: 1): Last week, I apprehensively moved Tech into the No. 1 slot. Well, not really apprehensively. It had just swept Ferris so the move was deserved. But I expected it to be short lived. This week, Tech’s slotting is the only team I’m sure about.
I don’t know how good the Huskies will end up being this year, but right this minute they’re the best team in the conference. And I don’t really think it’s close. Their first series against Lake, OK they’re not good whatever. Then they swept Ferris, which is a team I don’t really know what is up with. Then Tech absolutely laid waste to Michigan this weekend (which, by the way, finally fell out of the top 20 after dropping to 2-5-0). Remember all my jokes about Alex Petan being Tech’s only offense. Well he’s in a three-way tie for second on the team in points with seven in six games. David Johnstone leads the team with eight. Yes, Tech has four guys producing more than a point per game.
That’s not even the most impressive thing. Goalie Jamie Phillips has given up eight goals this season. His 1.34 GAA and .952 save percent would be leading the league if Mathias Dahlstrom wasn’t a thing. I don’t think Tech is quite this good, but who really knows at this point. This team has been exciting this year and I really can’t wait to see them play in person.
2. Bowling Green (LW: 3): I didn’t know what to do here. Really didn’t. Do I think BG is the second best team in the league? No, but I also don’t think Ferris is, nor do I think Minnesota State, Alaska, Northern Michigan or Bemidji are. If you want to listen to the polls, they think Minnesota State is. Not that convinced.
At this point in the season, I think the gap between the top six or so teams in this league (yes, Tech included) is minuscule and the volatility of these rankings will reflect that. The Falcons looked poor Friday, but much better Saturday. Even then, Minnesota State was still able to limit shot attempts.
The Falcons have to be more consistent. The parity in this league requires that if you hope to host a first round playoff series. After going up 5-1 against Clarkson on Saturday, BG was outscored 9-2 in the next four and a half periods or so. That can’t happen this year. As we touched on yesterday, that resiliency is good. But consistency would be better.
3. Minnesota State (LW: 4): The Mavs were kind of able to stay on track against BG this weekend with a split. But I still remain skeptical about their goaltending.
Cole Huggins once again rode the pine this weekend. He hasn’t played since giving up four to Duluth on Oct. 18. With sets coming up with an underrated Bemidji team and an obviously strong Michigan Tech team, I don’t know where he gets back in. Have they abandoned him, much like they did to Stephon Williams last year? Is there something about being a sophomore goalie at Minnesota State that carries a curse with it?
Speaking of Williams, he was OK this weekend. He had a sub-.900 save percent both nights, which is obviously not good. For the season, his save percent is only at .904, which ranks him 12th out of 15 qualifying WCHA goalies. He’s only faced more than 20 shots in a game twice, and in those games he gave up four and three. That’s not exactly someone I’d trust at this point.
4. Northern Michigan (LW: 6): Like I said at No. 2 above, I don’t think Northern is the fourth best team in this league. They’re just playing that way now.
That being said, their 4-0-1 record is a bit skewed. After sweeping Wisconsin to start the season (I’ve made you aware of their … issues) Northern swept Lake (bad) and managed only a win and a tie against Huntsville (not good). Fortunately for the Wildcats, that tie against Huntsville won’t cost them since it was *technically* a nonconference game since the two teams agreed to play each other before they became conference mates.
They’re here now because of Dahlstrom, with his 0.82 GAA and .964 save percent. That’s quite OK. But, as we talked about last week with Kevin Dufour’s goal scoring, eventually that number is going to start to correct itself, which means a higher number of goals against. Will the wins stop coming when that correction comes? Perhaps.
5. Bemidji State (LW: 7): Sure it was a home series and sure it was the second of back-to-back road weekends for Alaska, but getting a sweep in this league is kind of a big deal.
The Nanooks actually outshot Bemidji in both games (including 33-23 in Saturday’s game), but the Beavers had great goaltending from both Michael Blitzer and Andrew Walsh, who once again split the crease. Those two have been playing well this year, and the Beavers have been scoring by committee (although Brendan Harms, Markus Gerbrandt and Nate Arentz each have six points in six games this year).
They’re 3-3-0 this year, but those losses have been to Minnesota and North Dakota, so nothing to scoff at. Obviously, they’re 2-0 in WCHA play and it will be interesting to see what they can do against teams they are on par with.
6. Ferris State (LW: 2): If C.J. Motte weren’t auditioning for the lead role in the movie about Christ’s second coming, this would be a lot worse for Ferris right now.
Motte stole that first game against Michigan State last weekend, posting a shutout as the Bulldogs were outshot 36-16. He couldn’t do it the second night, giving up four on 34 shots as Ferris mustered only 21. I could make a strong argument that if not for Motte, Ferris would be 1-6-0 this year.
That’s a bad sign when your goalie is in the midst of posting the best numbers of his (already great) career and you’re sitting a game below .500. It’s going to get tougher for the Bulldogs. Their offensive has been abysmal. They have as many goals as Huntsville (10), granted, in one fewer game played. If they don’t fix that, they’re going to keep sliding down.
7. Alaska (LW: 5): As I said last week, I’ll believe in the Alaskas once I see them play outside their home state. The Nanooks did well to show that my lack of faith was warranted.
For some reason, they went back to Davis Jones in net Friday even though Sean Cahill had registered three straight outstanding starts. Well, Jones gave up six on 24 shots. Then the next night, Cahill gave up four on 23. So not exactly a sterling weekend for the two netminders.
8. Alaska-Anchorage (LW: 8): Unlike the Alaskan friends BG faces this weekend, the Seawolves were at home this weekend. They proceeded to give Lake its first win in 10 tries this season.
So yeah, you don’t want to do that. You especially don’t want to do that when you’re an Alaskan team playing at home. More concerning of the Seawolves is freshman goalie Olivier Mantha — who has been stellar this year — was pulled after about 18 minutes Saturday after allowing two bad goals on 12 shots. I could go into more detail but if you really want to know what’s went on in Anchorage this weekend just read this article.
9. Lake Superior (LW: 9): Finally a win! For the first time in 10 tries this season, the Lakers came away victorious and successfully gave themselves some distance in these rankings between them and Huntsville (which is what I’m sure they were worried about).
Obviously a big win and some much needed momentum for the Lakers, but don’t expect this to start a run of some sort. Their defense is still the worst in the league by a .30 goals allowed per game, and their offense is worse than everyone except Ferris (yep) and Huntsville.
But, and they can take solace in this, currently they sit ahead of Ferris State in the WCHA standings. So as bad as this season might end up being, they can say that after one WCHA weekend, they were higher than Ferris State in the standings.
10. Alabama-Huntsville (LW: 10): Poor Huntsville. With their tie against Northern this weekend I was all set to move it past Lake in the rankings until I looked and say Lake picked up a win. So unfortunate.
The Chargers had their first positive result of the season, tying Northern. Carmine Guerriero was once again cyborg-like in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots. He now has a sub-3 goals-against average at 2.71, to go along with a .936 save percent, which is somehow only fourth in the league.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, since it was *technically* a nonconference series, they did not acquire a point in the WCHA standings. So they too don’t get to say that, for a least a week, they were ahead of Ferris State.